Bemidji Speedway conducts second weekend of practice

061720.S.BP.SPEEDWAY Troy Gessner.JPG
No. 5 Troy Gessner races his sprint car around Bemidji Speedway during a practice on Saturday, June 13. (Dennis Peterson / Special to the Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji Speedway once again hosted a time for testing and tuning on Sunday, June 14, with a good turnout of drivers and crews for a second straight weekend of practice. For the first time, fans were allowed in the grandstands to watch the drivers test their cars.

No news was provided for an opening date, but track promoter/owner Tonja Stranger said, “We are looking at several options, but at this time we cannot announce anything.”

The following drivers were in attendance Sunday.

No. 66 Michael Roth has raced in Rice Lake and Superior, Wis., so far this year with a new Wissota Pure Stock. He plans on racing at Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Superior and Rice Lake.

Jeff Reed, driver of a No. 2 Wissota Midwest Modified, said that the current situation is frustrating with tracks open all around the state. He has not raced yet but plans on racing at Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Fergus Falls and Devils Lake, N.D.


Brennan Schmidt has raced three times and picked up two wins already in 2020 at Superior in his No. 32 Wissota Hornet. He is in his second year of racing and plans on running at Bemidji, Hibbing, Grand Rapids, Ogilvie and Superior.

Nathan Higginbotham has a new car this season and looks forward to racing his No. 57 Wissota Super Stock at Bemidji and Brainerd.

Blake Higginbotham also has a new ride this year and just “wants to race” his No. 57 Wissota Midwest Modified. He has not raced yet but plans on competing at Bemidji and Grand Forks, N.D.

Matt Sparby has raced three times so far in 2020 and hopes to get his new cars “figured out.” He plans on racing his No. 81 Wissota Super Stock and Late Model at Bemidji, Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids and Superior, before traveling to Arizona next winter to race.

Davey Mills was at the track testing his new No. 22 Wissota Modified and thinking about his dad who recently died following a long battle with cancer. His father, Larry Mills, was a well known and loved racer from Bemidji who was one of the best to ever compete at Bemidji Speedway and was responsible for many getting their start in the sport. Davey plans on racing at Bemidji, Fergus Falls and Grand Forks.

Tyler McClellan, driver of a No. 41 Wissota Midwest Modified, is “glad to be back at the track,” even if it is just practice. He plans on racing at Bemidji, Grand Forks, Hibbing and Greenbush.

Waylon Current, in his second year of racing, said he “can’t wait to get racing. It's been a long break.” He plans on racing his No. 9 Mini Stock at Bemidji, Greenbush and Fergus Falls along with his dad, John Current.

Darrin Lawler is in his 12th year of racing and has not yet raced his No. 19 Wissota Midwest Modified in 2020. He plans on racing in a few specials and also at Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Bemidji.


Dusty Caspers has raced five times already this year, all out of state, and finished in the top five in four of the features. He’s raced four times in Superior and once at Devils Lake. “It seems strange not to have raced in Minnesota yet,” he said. He plans on racing his No. 5 Wissota Pure Stock at Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Superior this year.

Blake Erickson has not yet raced his No. 99 Wissota Mod Four and said, “I wish it was open for us to race,” speaking about the current situation in Minnesota. He and his father, Doyle Erickson, plan on racing Bemidji, Brainerd, Greenbush and Grand Forks.

Doyle Erickson, driver of the No. 99 Wissota Modified and IMCA Modified, plans to race with his son, Blake, at Bemidji, Brainerd, Greenbush and Grand Forks.

Tyler Schow made the trip over from Grand Forks to test his new B Mod. He plans on racing his No. 28 Wissota Midwest Modified in Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Greenbush and Bemidji.

Scott Smith and Don Coatsworth plan on sharing the race duties driving a No. 26 Wissota Pure Stock. They are new at the sport and are from the Grand Rapids area.

Rick Jacobson has been racing for 37 years and hopes to get racing soon. He plans on racing his No. 7 Wissota Modified in Bemidji, Superior, Fergus Falls, Cedar Lake and Grand Rapids.

Bemidji High School student Nick Jessen moved up from the pure stock and mini stock class in 2020 with a new Wissota Mod Four and has not yet raced. He plans on racing his No. 18 car at Bemidji and Brainerd.

Dawson Kimble, who has not raced yet this year, said, “Even though the season has been delayed, I’m still not ready.” He plans on racing his No. 4K Wissota Pure Stock at Bemidji and several other tracks.


Cody Buchanan has raced off and on for 11 years. He hopes to race his No. 14 Wissota Pure Stock at Bemidji, Superior and Grand Rapids.

Travis Olafson, in his seventh year of racing, plans on racing his No. 00 Wissota Hornet at Bemidji and Grand Rapids.

Known around the racing community as the “Pookie Strong” race team, Billy Foster is in his 11th season with plans to race his No. 115 Mini Stock at Lisbon N.D., Fergus Falls, Greenbush, Grand Rapids and Bemidji.

With more than 30 years of racing experience in various classes, Alan Olafson is well known throughout the Midwest racing scene. He plans on running his No. 77 Wissota Modified at Devils Lake, Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Ogilvie and Bemidji, but may race at other tracks as well.

Kade Leeper will be back on track in his fourth year of racing and plans on racing his No. 3 Wissota Pure Stock at Grand Rapids, Proctor, Rice Lake, Superior and Bemidji.

Northern Sprints turn laps in Bemidji

The Northern Renegade Sprints took over Bemidji Speedway on Saturday, June 13, to give veteran and new drivers a chance to try out their skills on the 1/4-mile oval in what they hope will lead to racing soon.

Northern Renegade president and longtime racer Caley Emerson has been impressed by the growth of the new class of “wingless” sprints in northern Minnesota.

“We have about 20 drivers in our sport right now in the northern part of our state,” Emerson said.


The Northern Renegades have gained momentum in just a few years of existence with a new Western Renegade class gaining members in North Dakota with around 25 members. In all, a total of around 95 wingless sprints race on a regular basis in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The Renegade sprints will be racing at various tracks in the tri-state area, including in Bemidji this summer once racing resumes. For the numerous new drivers in the class, the racing can’t come soon enough.

Working and practicing alongside the Northern Renegades were five high school students who built a Wissota Hornet to race in the 2020 season.

None of the five have ever raced before and they were excited to finally get their car on the track and turn some laps. They plan on racing in Bemidji once the racing begins.

The team members are Austin Herr, Logan Braford, Justin Barsness, Logan ZumMallen and Ayden Ternbeth.

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